Our next stop was Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine. We picked Pineland from the Maine Cheese Guild website, knowing nothing about it. Located on a huge expanse of farmland on the edge of a multi-use business park that was formerly a school for the “feeble minded,” Pineland is a relatively large operation. Production Manaager Kevin showed us around a modern and impeccably-clean plant. They boast two 1,000 gallon cheese vats and a 2,000 gallon cheese vat, and (according to Kevin) are on track to produce 750,000 pounds of cheese this year. Keep in mind, though, that some industrial cheese plants produce over 100,000 pounds of cheese every day, so Pineland may be large compared to us, but they aren’t huge. They are more or less on the border between small commercial cheesemaker and large artisan cheesemaker.
Pineland’s equipment is top notch. From sprayers located next to each vat and drain table, to pumps that move curd from place to place, their operation is clean and efficient. They had just completed a batch of Cheddar, and I found myself with “curd mill envy”! (We still cut curds with a 2-handled knife. They have a wonderful machine that cuts a huge block of curd in seconds!)
Kevin was happy to discuss cheese making and troubleshooting with us. In fact, other cheese makers in the area have told us that Pineland often helps them solve cheesemaking problems. They seem to go out of their way to be a good neighbor.
Pineland uses only hormone-free milk from local farms, which it pasteurizes before use. It makes Cheddar, Jack, and Feta, among others. Cheeses are aged in vacuum bags so they don’t develop any mold growth. Kevin says that even their Feta now ages in bags instead of brine.
Pineland’s cheeses are available in stores “almost everywhere east of the Mississippi,” Kevin told us, as well as in pockets in the West. We sampled their Garlic-Onion Jack, and it was quite tasty.